At the cutting-edge of technology, BCE has a long history of using new solutions to pave the way to the future of media. As a pioneer in mass digitisation, BCE was also the first European company to drop tape and use a complete file-based workflow on its premises.
“Looking towards the future, we have decided to move to new premises. We have always anticipated the merge between IT and Broadcast technologies and decided to stop talking about new solutions and change the complete workflow of our activities to IP.” Comments Andreas Fleuter, Special Project Manager at BCE.
After two years of construction, the shell of our new premises, RTL City, was finished and it was time to address the details. To do so, BCE prepared the transition to IP with key partners such as SAM and VSM (Lawo). Both companies partnered in this state-of-the-art project in order to deliver new solutions that will perfectly match heavy broadcast, production and post-production systems.
Partners in time
Within a short time frame, SAM, VSM (Lawo) and BCE engineers managed to create IP systems that would be able to manage the needs of our workflow.
This research period was carried out at BCE premises, testing the TV and Radio systems and solving all the teething problems of a technology that had never really been used in a working environment. The solution is able to manage peak broadcasting needs; it transforms our view of IP and helps regain our trust in the future of media and IT.
“The future needs vision. Targeting the future, we had to bypass legacy workflows, think outside of the box and innovate. Working on a green-field we had to ensure maximum reliability and ROI via a future proof infrastructure ready to accommodate any upcoming standard. Solely based on IT infrastructure, we now have a new way to produce and deliver content to our clients.” Comments Costas Colombus, Manager Special Projects at BCE.
The media core
Since SDI disappeared from our workflows, the complete technology of our new building is based on standard IT systems. While enhancing flexibility, it increases the need for IT engineers and requires a perfect symbiosis between the broadcast and IT teams with the right knowledge transfer to maximise their efficiency.
In RTL City, the core installation of our infrastructure is centralised in our datacentre. This infrastructure was the first step of our project; it was paramount to get a firm platform to ensure the operations.
Linked via dark fibre to our previous building, we moved the datacentre to the new premises as well as the digital library, before moving the company, keeping a perfect connectivity to data for all our in-house operations.
“It is the first project of this kind, with the interconnection of critical production units. The project was a success thanks to the essential organization between the divisions. The network organisation was revised to meet media business requirements in terms of quality of service and security. The centralised datacentre is a real breakthrough, enhancing flexibility for the connections within the company but also worldwide thanks to our telecom network,” explains Stéphane Gérard, Network and Telecom Operations Supervisor at BCE.
Managing the transition
To avoid any unsolicited incidents, BCE decided to move the different key activities one by one. More than moving a platform to a new technology, the users needed to be trained to use their new tools. While keeping the same type of environment, the IP technology opens up new possibilities and accelerates the operation of the different units.
For the playout platforms, BCE had to manage the transition from SDI to IP seamlessly. BCE setup a dual system with VSM: during this transition period the playout was done on both IP and SDI technologies and the migration of all the channels was completed within a five month timeframe.
To respond to the rising demand, BCE built a mass digitisation platform on its second site in Junglinster (Luxembourg). This platform allows unlimited projects and also has a large atmosphere regulated warehouse to store tapes for digitisation. The site is fully secured and connected via dark fibre to BCE digital library in RTL City as well as on a redundant platform.
Smart levels distribution
“The IP-technology allowed the move to a fibre-based cabling infrastructure. All the areas of the building are connected through a reduced amount of cables which are able to transport a far higher number of services. The multiple changes in media services are now easier to manage without the need of modifications in the basic cable structure.” explains Alain Prim, Engineering & Systems Integration Manager.
The production activities are located in the basement with four studios which are controlled through two switchable control rooms. For ad-hoc needs, BCE’s outside broadcast van can be connected and used as an alternative control room.
On this level BCE operates the 909 m2 datacentre with its 360 51U racks. BCE’s digital library is conveniently located there to facilitate the communication between the different systems.
The entrance of RTL City opens to a large atrium. In this Atrium, we have built another structure that exclusively welcomes six radio studios and control rooms.
The studios and control rooms are IP-based and the workstations are centralised in the datacentre allowing the user to operate them remotely via KVM. This gives more flexibility to the sound engineers who are now able to work from any studio in the building.
The national broadcaster, RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg is located on Level 1 alongside ENEX platform with its newsroom. ENEX platform is connected via BCE file-based system to all its members across 50 countries.
Our state-of-the-art broadcasting centre welcomes 35 channels over seven control rooms with customers all over Europe and Asia.
The IP workflow opens a wide array of technologies and allows faster setup of broadcast infrastructure. New-comers are welcome for smart broadcasting over Europe, United Kingdom and abroad; companies can set up their broadcast from Luxembourg while keeping control of their activities from their country.
Our infrastructure and our worldwide activities are monitored through the Network Operations Centre. With a smart alarm system, one person can oversee all our activities, control the redundant platforms, answer the customers’ queries and set up interventions.
To ensure the continuity of the operations, IT and media engineers are located on the upper floors with a direct access to all BCE facilities. Working hand in hand, the two worlds of IT and media share their knowledge to ensure the perfect mix for IP-based workflows.
Looking towards the future
The final move of BCE’s playout activities will be over mid-2017. Switching to full IP technology is the next big move in the media industry; we believe that IP will facilitate the evolution of TV and radio thanks to strong partnerships between IT and media experts. Both industries share unique expertise that allow a smart evolution of the digital media landscape.
The final IP solution is a real game changer in the broadcast industry. This project gave our partner the opportunity to face the needs of a massive platform, dealing with all the aspects of the industry. All the activities of BCE are now IP-based showing the market its strength and flexibility.
“I had the chance to follow the media world through its main transformations, such as the transition from analogue to digital tapes, the switch to file-based activities at the beginning of the century and the shift to High Definition. This latest evolution completely blends two worlds, opening TV and radio to the megalogue and breaking the final barrier between broadcasters and IT players. On the infrastructure side, it allows seamless communication between all departments and opens a world of new technologies for linear and non-linear broadcast, but also fosters future changes such as the 4K transition” concludes Jean Lampach, Chief Technology and Development Officer at BCE.